Teachers assess students to discover how well they understand the information taught and to determine how much growth they are making in developing their academic skills. Testing is a common assessment technique, but it is far from the only assessment option at teacher's disposal. By assessing through alternative means, teachers can ensure that test anxiety or an inability to perform on tests do not lead to a misunderstanding of a student's abilities.
Teachers can assess their students' abilities simply by observing their classroom behavior or completion of activities. By watching students as they work, teachers can identify signs of struggle and determine where a child may be experiencing academic difficulties. Because students often do not realize that they are being observed, teachers can ensure that the picture they receive of student understanding represents the student's actual abilities.
By asking students to complete a project, teachers can see how well their pupils can apply taught information. Successful completion of a project requires a student to translate their learning into the completion of a task. Project-based assessment more closely approximates how students will be assessed in the real world, as employers will not ask their employees to take tests, but instead judge their merit upon the work they complete.
Some students struggle to express their understanding through writing. For these students, oral assessments are a feasible alternative to standard testing. In an oral assessment, a teacher simply asks the student questions based on the material, or asks the student to explain his understanding of the material taught. By listening to the student response, the teacher can gauge the degree to which the student understands the material.
In a portfolio assessment, a teacher looks not at one piece of work as a measure of student understanding, but instead at the body of work the student has produced over a period of time. To allow for a portfolio assessment, a teacher must compile student work throughout the term. This is commonly accomplished by providing each student with a folder in which to store essays or other large activities. Upon compilation of the portfolio, the teacher can review the body of work and determine the degree to which the work indicates the student's understanding of the content.
While class participation is an informal means of assessment, teachers can obtain much information about student understanding by paying close attention to student responses during class. Students who participate actively and offer productive and on-topic responses to questions posed to the class likely understand the material fully. By taking note of student participation, teachers can identify students who clearly have a grasp of the content.
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